A Detroit man who was killed in July 2013 had been previously convicted of motor vehicle manslaughter and a judge will now have to decide whether the past conviction should be allowed as evidence at an upcoming murder trial.

Ricky Cole was convicted of motor vehicle manslaughter in New Hampshire prior to his death, but the Office of the Maine Attorney General said in a court filing last week that the conviction would not necessarily justify use of force against him by his alleged killer, Jason Cote.

Cote, 25, has denied that he murdered Cole, although police allege that he was high and was seeking drugs when he went to Cole’s home in Detroit on July 17, 2013, and bludgeoned him to death.

Jury selection is currently scheduled for Dec. 9 with the trial to start immediately afterwards.

Cote’s attorneys filed paperwork in Somerset County Superior Court last week asking that they be granted access to confidential mental health records for Cole that include threats he made about killing police officers and a statement he made about killing two people in New Hampshire.

The case was originally scheduled to go to trial in May 2014, but has been delayed three times, once because defense attorneys alleged they were not given enough time to review evidence provided by the state and twice because of changes in court-appointed attorneys assigned to represent Cote.


A previous attorney for Cote said in May 2014 after the first delay that it violated his right to a speedy trial.

Cote has been in custody since the day after Cole’s murder.

Stephen Smith and Caleb Gannon, the attorneys for Cote, wrote in a request to the court last week that they are seeking access to documents related to counseling services that Kennebec Behavioral Health provided to Ricky Cole.

A decision on the request is expected prior to the start of the trial in December, Smith said Monday.

The attorneys learned of the documents after finding a police affidavit describing them, court records said. The affidavit was written in March 2013 by Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matthew Cunningham, who had obtained a search warrant for Cole’s home.

Cunningham stated that the director of the Kennebec Behavioral Health Clinic in Waterville had notified the sheriff’s office that a patient, Ricky Cole, “articulated that he’d almost killed two police officers during the preceding week. He’d also stated that he’d spent time in a New Hampshire prison for killing two people two years ago.”


Cote’s attorneys said Cote was aware of Cole’s threat to kill police officers and the statement he had made about previously killing other people, and that would have given him reason to fear Cole.

But Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea wrote in a separate filing last week that even if Cote did have knowledge of Cole’s criminal history and misdeeds, they would not necessarily fit the criteria for evidence.

A copy of Cole’s criminal history in New Hampshire was not immediately available Monday, although the filing by Zainea stated that he had been convicted of motor vehicle manslaughter.

His only criminal record in Skowhegan District Court was a June 2013 conviction for criminal threatening.

Maine’s evidence rules state that a person’s criminal history cannot be used as evidence to support the claim that they would act in the same way again. Zainea also wrote that Cote would have to prove he had knowledge of Cole’s bad behavior in order for him to make the argument that it caused him to act out of fear and self-defense.

She wrote that she is opposed to the use of the mental health records because they were confidential and therefore could not be used to show that Cote had knowledge of past threats made by Cole.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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